Winter notes from Bateman's garden and estate team

Frozen leaf on the ground in winter

In comparison to the vibrant and abundant borders and flowerbeds of summer, the winter garden at Bateman's can seem bare and uninspiring. However, our garden team can't afford to sit back and relax as there are a surprising number of jobs that need to be done during this quiet time.

Notes from the garden and estates team

Even with the occasional challenges the weather conditions bring us during the winter months, we think you can still enjoy the garden.

Discover more about our team and some of the things that they look forward to at this time of year.

Len - Garden & estates manager

Len has worked here at Bateman's for just under 6 years. His aim is to recreate the garden as it would have been when the Kiplings lived here. This is quite a challenge as there is little or no information left behind by Kipling to follow and only a very few surviving photos showing the garden layout and plants.

Len says, "Christmas is a very busy time, full of activity as we welcome the many visitors who come to enjoy our special themed house and garden trails inspired by Kipling's stories.

Then, in January and February, there's a period of relative calm. For a brief while the garden becomes Kipling's 'good and peaceable place' and once more visitors and staff can enjoy the tranquility of their surroundings. I lov the view over the estate at this time of year; reminding me of the strong connection between the garden and the landscape that inspired so much of Kipling's later writings."

A winter's morning view down to Bateman's from the orchard

Andy - our long-serving gardener

Andy has worked at Bateman's for many years. His main job from the end of the summer to the last few days of autumn is to clip the many yew hedges that we have around the garden. With a keen eye for detail, he is meticulous in his work and the hedges are a joy to behold once they have succumbed to his electric clippers, opening up the views from the garden out across the estate.

Andy says, "Our visitors may not realise it but there are so many jobs still to do at this time of year, especially as the days get shorter. Whilst putting the garden to bed, I'll already be thinking ahead to our spring jobs but it's a welcoming thought to know that the first green leaves and developing flower heads of the snowdrops will be showing in January, heralding the explosion of colour to come."

Snowdrops in the wild garden at Bateman's in East Sussex

Hannah - our 'one year in' gardener

Hannah joined the team at the end of the summer 2017, having worked at other National Trust properties previously. Over the past year she has slowly being introduced to the specific jobs of Bateman's garden and especially the meticulously pruning the pleached limes during December. It is true to say that Hannah was anxious about this particular job but under the watchful eye of Andy she managed it pretty well, although the tripod ladders were a bit of a challenge.

Hannah says, "As Bateman’s newest gardener my main focus is still getting myself familiarised with the garden and its many plants.  I've very much enjoyed watching the garden transform over the past year from the bleakness of winter where the structures of the trees and borders are laid bare to the re-awakening of spring and the full glory of the garden in summer. Hopefully this winter will not be quite as cold as last but I'm looking forward to tackling those pleached limes again and this time staying on the ladder throughout."

Winter sunlight shining through a wintry tree in the garden at Bateman's in East Sussex

Kev - our ranger

Kev has also worked at Bateman's for many years. He spends most of his time out and about on the wider estate. Last winter and spring he was working hard with a team to renew some of the ponds on the estate that had become clogged and overgrown. He's also learning about the bats at Bodiam Castle and training to become a bee-keeper looking after our hives here at Bateman's.

Kev says, "Winter on the estate means one thing: woodland work. Once the trees have lost their leaves I head out to the woods to carry out thinning and coppicing. This work lets light into the woods, improving them for a range of wildlife including wildflowers, butterflies and the dormice we have just discovered in our hedgerows. 
The coppiced wood is then used by the garden team to make plants supports for their veg and annual plant displays, so everything gets recycled."

A view out across the estate on a frosty morning at Bateman's in East Sussex